Taking on a personal cycling challenge

For the longest time the thought of a particular cycling challenge has played in my mind over and over. Originally it was the idea of riding the area’s popular climb (Longquan for those who know what’s up) every day for a week. Then it manifested in setting a target distance to cover a set time period. But nothing ever seemed to captivate me so much as to inspire me to commit.

A few months back I stumbled on the blog of an endurance cycling enthusiast, Chris Hall. One of his undertakings, and the hallmark of his site was his 107 for 107 challenge. The goal: Ride 107km a day, every day for 107 days. The caveat is that he also used to the opportunity to fundraise for disadvantaged kids. Pretty awesome.

I wasn’t prepared to go to those lengths but the idea of setting a daily distance challenge seemed fascinating. I was curious to see about rekindling my own interpretation of the endurance challenge to see what it’s like to squeeze a few hours of riding into your everyday for a length of time.

My challenge shook out to 70 for 7. I scrapped the idea of doing the same ride every day but used its distance as inspiration; Out and back the Longquan climb is just at the 70km mark. Having just wrapped up a week of spinning it out for a few hours daily, here’s a few tips if you’re considering taking something similar on.

To start with, having a fixed distance and not a fixed ride was a smart move. When you’re spending at least a couple hours every day on your bike you need to mix it up. Variety is the spice of life, so having a few different routes to cover the distance helps keep it fresh.

Speaking on variety, if you can swap out the bike you’re on then that’s an added perk. I did it all on my trusty Cannondale, but having the option to ride something else is another way to change the feel of a ride.

The tempo of the ride is also super important. I’d gotten a fixed idea in my head of systematically grinding out each ride. This meant that when I got out on the bike I was pushing to cover kilometers. But I wasn’t pushing so hard as to get a heavy workout from it, fearful I wouldn’t have the time to recover. Really, I should have changed up how I was riding. By day 5 I was gassed anyway and it threw a huge kink in my morale. Despite my fitness being up to snuff I hadn’t done anything to mix up what parts of my legs I was using and as a result my body began to protest.

The suggestion is simple, if you can’t take a rest day off the bike, then take one on it. Account for the fact that every so often you need to let off a bit and take it slow. This will affect the time and take longer but that’s just the compromise when you can’t spend a day chilling on the couch.

Another important thing to consider is the timing. I chose to take on my challenge during the hottest part of the year. This meant that I needed to have an early set out each morning in order to beat the heat. I’d recommend an early start regardless because you can wrap up earlier and still get on with your normal life afterwards and not be too affected. However, having the option to throw in a ride at a different time of day is a nice perk.

Once you get cranking away at a challenge like this you begin to gain momentum and you develop a rhythm. Besides being hungrier than normal and craving a little extra sleep it’s pretty rewarding. You can cover serious ground, feel out the limits of your fitness and also take the concept of every day riding and make it about a little bit more than just keeping up. Not to mention it also gives you a hell of a lot of time to think about things.

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